GEOL 757 - Advanced Seismic Imaging and Tomography

Course Outline Instructor: J. Louie, 217 LME, 784-4219 9:00-9:50 MWF LME415 Fall, 2014

Learning Objectives: This course completes after Geol 706 ``a coherent overview of the whole field of data processing as it is used in petroleum exploration,'' (Claerbout, 1985) and is the most advanced course in seismic exploration at the University of Nevada. The course goes beyond the two texts by including introductions to tomography and finite-difference modeling developed by Profs. Robert W. Clayton and John E. Vidale, and material on Kirchhoff migration from Prof. John Louie. Further objectives from Claerbout (1985):
``As it happens, waves are marvelously geometrical objects, and much can be learned with little mathematical analysis. But you should begin the book having previous familiarity with calculus, complex exponentials, and Fourier transformation.
``Your knowledge won't be complete if you don't know some opinions as well as the facts. You will be getting opinions as well as facts when I explain the discrepancies between theory and industrial practice, and when I explain what should work but doesn't seem to.
``Prospecting for oil begins with seismic soundings. The echoes are processed by computer into images that reveal much geological history. Worldwide, echo sounding and image making constitute about a four-billion-dollar-per-year activity.
``... the skills developed in this book, computer implementations of concepts from physics, will always be of general utility.''

Schedule: 9:00-9:50 selected Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in LME 415. Selected Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:00-10:50 in LME 417.

Lectures: Three-five 50-minute lectures each week.


  1. Jon Claerbout, 1992, Earth Soundings Analysis: Processing versus Inversion (PVI), Blackwell, ISBN #0-86542-210-9, out of print. Available from the instructor and in the DeLaMare Library. Read the text on-line at Stanford (or in DVI format for your LaTeX reader here, if you are logged into the Seismology Sun system). Here is a 4 Mb PDF version built by the author in 2006.

  2. Jon Claerbout, 1985, Imaging the Earth's Interior (IEI), Blackwell, ISBN #0-86542-304-0, out of print. Available from the instructor and in the DeLaMare Library. Read it on-line at Stanford; or download your own copy in PDF format, in parts through pages: 50; 100; 150; 200; 250; 300; 350; 400 (up to 1.7 Mb each).

  3. Jon Claerbout, 1999, Geophysical Estimation By Example (GEE), Free. Available only on-line from Stanford; some sections in in a directory of PDF files on the Seismo server.

The lecture notes will be available prior to each lecture for you to read and annotate in class. View the folder of PDF lecture notes.

The recorded lectures will be available as downloadable video files, a few days after each class. View the folder of lecture video files.


Grading: Two Term Projects 100%
I encourage any student needing to request accommodations for a specific disability to please meet with me at your earliest convenience to ensure timely and appropriate accommodations.

Original, individual projects are required and should be selected in consultation with the instructor. Possible projects vary widely and can take the form of literature reviews, theoretical demonstrations, application development, or data analysis. For each project the student should turn in a five to ten page project report, plus figures and an abstract in the form of an SEG Expanded Abstract, that properly reviews and cites appropriate background literature, fully describes the methods, presents the project results, and discusses their applicability and significance. Project reports may also take the form of a 20-minute SEG oral presentation. See the instructor for project suggestions, which can also be found within the lab assignments linked from the Geol 706 syllabus.

  • Lateral Velocity Variation IEI set p. 244
    • Statics & ray coverage
    • Transmission tomography
      • Applications
      • Radon transform
      • Tomographic approximation
      • Linearization, velocity variation
      • Back projection
  • Conjugate Operators PVI set p. 106
    • Univariate Problems
      • Crosstalk
      • Noise, Deconvolution
      • Nonstationarity
    • Conjugate Operators
      • Matrices, Products
      • Mappings, Interpolation
      • Inversion, Tomography
  • Deterministic Traveltimes - on line
    • Finite-Difference Times
    • Deterministic Ray Tracing
    • Traveltime Optimization
      • Nevada methods (not Monte-Carlo)
      • First arrivals
      • Reflection times
      • Reflection coherency
  • Multi-Offset Methods IEI set p. 160

All of the codes used in the textbooks are accessible on-line from the Stanford Exploration Project. We also have local copies of: codes from PVI; codes from GEE; and HTML documentation on SEPlib.

For the Radon tomography example discussed in the lectures, the gradient-step, steepest-descent, conjugate-gradient, and Hestenes and Stiefel iteration scripts are available

Reference List to Inspire Projects